The Year Automobile Designers Became Dress Designers

I happened across a story in a 1940 newspaper about automobile designers making a foray into women’s fashions. The feminine styles were supposed to match the 1941 automotive offerings and were designed by the same men who created those body styles. This was all done to promote the New York auto show. There were pictures to go with the story, but no names, so I had to keep digging. I discovered that the first one was designed by none other than Harley Earl, and this streamlined creation in silver rayon featured wings to mimic the hood emblem on a ’41 Caddy.

Photo credit: Rex Gray, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The stories I found do not give credit for this stylish jacket with a yolk based on the shape of the Packard grille. Perhaps the designer was Howard “Dutch” Darrin?

Photo credit: David Berry from Rohnert Park CA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This swimming suit is based on the 1941 Chevrolet. You can see the shape of the grille on the model’s midsection, and her shoes were even made out of Lucite!

This ensemble was designed, I believe, by E. T. Gregorie and was meant to complement the Mercury. Notice the belt, which was based on the Merc’s bumper guards, and a purse modeled on the hubcaps.

Photo credit: JOHN LLOYD from Concrete, Washington, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One article said this coat was made with upholstery plaid, so it must be based on Chrysler’s Highlander. Oliver Clark was likely the one who designed this modish outerwear.

This promotion was done in cooperation with Harper’s Bazaar magazine, and the clothing was actually available to be purchased on Fifth Avenue. I have no idea how well it sold, but I would absolutely purchase all of it today if still available (and I might run someone over to get to that hubcap purse).

The “Big Three” and “Little Three” Car Companies of 1954

I found this blurb in a 1954 newspaper:

If you’ve been watching the automobile news, you know that there are now only six passenger car manufacturers in the U.S. – the “big three” and the “little three.”

So, can you name the six surviving car companies of 1954?

The Big Three are easy to identify:


General Motors

1954 Chevy Corvette

1954 Chevy Bel Air


Recalling the Little Three is more problematic as there was a lot going on in the way of mergers and acquisitions. In no particular order, they are:

Studebaker-Packard – Detroit’s Packard Motor Car Company bought Indiana-based Studebaker in 1954 and became Studebaker-Packard.

1954 Studebaker Station Wagon

1954 Packard Clipper Super Touring Sedan

Kaiser-Willys – Kaiser-Frazer had started up after WWII, riding high on the post-war boom. The company struggled in the early 1950s after a series of missteps, and the Frazer name was dropped. In 1953, Kaiser purchased Willys-Overland and, in 1954, the companies merged into Willys Motors, Inc.

1954 Kaiser Darrin

1954 Kaiser

1954 Willys M38A1

American Motors – AMC was formed in 1954 when the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation merged with Hudson.

1954 Hudson Hornet with Twin H-Power

The Liberty Lens, Manufactured by the Macbeth-Evans Glass Company

It never ceases to amaze me how many glass headlight lenses have managed to survive the rough-and-tumble of the last one hundred years or so. We purchased a large box of such lenses the other day, and two of them were marked “Liberty Lens” with patent dates of 1914 and 1920.

They were manufactured by Macbeth-Evans, a glass company that formed in 1899 when three separate companies combined. That move gave the new entity control of the five largest “lamp chimney” factories in the United States. Like all manufacturers, Macbeth-Evans had to adjust with the changing times, and that included the manufacturing of lenses for automobiles.

States were enacting laws in the teens and twenties regarding headlight glare and acceptable lenses, and Macbeth-Evans wasn’t afraid to use fear of law enforcement as a marketing tool. The advertisement below declares, “State Highway patrols will accost all motorists whose lights do not comply with the new law. Everybody violating the new law will be subject to arrest, a $25 fine, or 5 days’ imprisonment.”

The Liberty lenses were flat with “seven horizontal and six vertical prisms” that controlled and distributed the light, free from glare.

These lenses were available for any motorist to purchase, but, according to these advertisements, they also came as standard equipment on some makes. This ad from 1923 specifically mentions Studebaker:

This advertisement from 1920 enumerates the many different makes that utilized Liberty lenses as standard equipment, including Packard and Nash, so you might keep an eye out for a pair if you own one of the automobiles on this list:

1918 Case Six with a Liberty Lens on the passenger side. This car is located at Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska.

Packard Hood Ornaments By Year – 1940s

I get lots of questions regarding the very complicated world of Packard hood ornaments, so a while back I attempted to put together a list (by year). I started with the 1950s, which you can find here. Below you will find my stab at the Packard heraldry of the 1940s. If you see any mistakes, feel free to email me at


Goddess design patent 149,601 (no apron) – Packard Eight
Super, Custom
Optional Golden Anniversary “Egyptian” hood ornament


Goddess design patent 149,601 (no apron) – Super Eight
Deluxe Eight, Standard Eight
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Custom Eight


Goddess design patent 149,601 (with apron)


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Goddess design patent 149,601 (with apron)


Feather bail – Everything other than Clippers
Donut chaser option


One-Ten, One-Twenty
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Feather bail – One-Sixty, One-Eighty
Donut chaser option
Cormorant option


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One-Sixty (available with a plain, ungrooved wing in 1940, also produced in a “California” model without the donut)
Bail Cap – One-Ten, One-Twenty

1934 Packard

This stunning 1934 Packard was a luxury car born into the Great Depression.  When it was unveiled in the fall of 1933, Packard’s VP of distribution was quoted as saying, “No depression has lasted permanently. . . each year for three years, therefore, we have been ready with new cars for any break that might occur in the business slump.” Unfortunately, that break was still a ways off and the intervening years succeeded in killing many car companies.  Packard weathered the thirties better then other luxury car brands, not just surviving but outselling all of the other luxury carmakers combined. It is easy to see why with those beautiful, distinctive Packard lines.  In 1934, engine choices included two inline eights and a twelve-cylinder for the top-of-the-line Packard Twelve.  The Twelve had a wheelbase of 134-7/8”, weighed over 5,000 pounds and went zero to 60 in 20.4 seconds.

In addition to Packard’s standard tag line, “Ask the man who owns one,” Packard also used the term “Yardstick” Packards in advertisements, meaning that Packard was the yardstick with which to measure all fine car values.

1919 Transcontinental Army Motor Convoy

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the historic military convoy that traversed America from Washington DC to the Pacific Ocean, following the Lincoln Highway from Gettysburg to San Francisco.  The Great War had just ended, and the development of military vehicles was one of the principal factors that contributed to winning that war.  As the commanding officer in charge of the convoy, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles McClure, put it, “Motor truck transportation saved France, but France had roads.” Realizing the importance of a federal highway system, the Secretary of War authorized the Motor Transport Corps (MTC) of the United States Army to conduct this First Transcontinental Motor Convoy.  The stated goals included the service testing of army vehicles, demonstrating the practicability of long-distance motor transport, encouraging the government expenditure necessary to a highway system, and recruiting for the MTC.

The convoy that left Washington D.C. on July 7th consisted of two complete truck companies of “war strength”.  Reports vary, but around 80 vehicles made the trip and included, among others, Cadillac and Dodge passenger cars, Packard, White, GMC and Mack Trucks and Harley and Indian motorcycles. 

Personnel numbered nearly 300, made up of enlisted men, officers and War Department observers.  One of those observers was the great Dwight D. Eisenhower, then a baby-faced Lieutenant Colonel, and you can find the official reports referenced herein, as well as the historic photos, on the Eisenhower Presidential Library website.

They made the 3,251-mile trip in 62 days, arriving at the Presidio in San Francisco on September 6th.  Over 54 percent or 1,778 of the miles traveled consisted of unpaved mountain trails, desert sands, alkali flats and dirt roads that quickly turned to mud when it rained. 

Again, reports vary, but the convoy of heavy machinery damaged or destroyed something like 100 bridges and culverts.  One of the Mack trucks, carrying a tractor, was the official tester.   According to an interview with McClure, this testing lead to the collapse of 16 bridges in a single day, and all destroyed bridges had to be rebuilt before moving on. 

Surviving Lincoln Highway bridge near Overton, Nebraska.
Photo credit: Marge Kauffelt

According to the official reports, this army motor convoy set a new world record for distance and, in doing so, garnered the publicity essential to achieving its purposes. One-ninth of the population of the United States was living within a zone ten miles wide along the Lincoln Highway, and it was estimated that local publicity in the states crossed brought the convoy to the attention of 33,000,000 people or nearly one-third of the population. The Townsend Highway Bill, legislation which established a Federal Highway Commission and appropriated funds for the construction of highways, was under consideration in Congress, and the fanfare surrounding the convoy helped convince the members of Congress to pass it. 

In terms of service-testing the equipment, some brands fared better than others. The Garford truck, for example, was roundly criticized.  The Dodges and Cadillacs performed admirably, and the three Packard trucks received high praise from those who took part in the convoy, including Eisenhower himself.  He stated “One Packard truck was badly overloaded the entire trip.  Its load was partially distributed in latter part, but when weighed near end of trip, its gross weight was still 1,500 pounds in excess of that of any other 1 ½ ton truck.  The performance of these three trucks is considered remarkable.” 

A consensus was also reached regarding the performance of personnel.  The repair, engineer and medical units were well-trained and disciplined, but the relatively new MTC apparently had room for improvement.  The Ordnance Observer, 1st Lieutenant E. R. Jackson, described it this way in his report: “During the early weeks of the trip, discipline among the enlisted men of the Motor Transport Corps was conspicuous by its absence.”  Eisenhower agreed with this observation and blamed inexperience and poor officers for excessive speeding, poor handling of trucks and unseemly conduct.  Unfortunately, no details were given as to what was unseemly about their conduct!

When the convoy passed through Kearney, Nebraska, the local paper noted the similarities between the pioneers in the convoy and the ones that had followed the Oregon Trail to the west in similar fashion not too many decades before.  The khaki canvas stretched over the steel supports of the army trucks was reminiscent of the white canvas of the covered wagons.  Like the wagon train, the convoy was also self-sustaining.  It included machine and blacksmith shops, water tanks, gas tanks and kitchen trailers.  Kearney is home to Ft. Kearny, and some of those watching the 1919 spectacle had almost certainly witnessed the wagon trains that were still rolling through in the 1860s.

To commemorate this historic transcontinental convoy, some organizations are retracing the path taken in 1919.  One of these groups is the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, and they just went through Nebraska a couple of days ago.  What a great idea, and what an impressive array of historic vehicles! 


“Army Motor Convoy Trip.” The Denison Review, 2 July 1919, p. 1.

“Army Truck is Try-Out For Equipment.” The South Bend News Times, 20 July 1919, p. 10.

“Billion Urged For National Road System.” Oakland Tribune, 7 September 1919, p. 4.

“First Transcontinental Military Convoy Over Lincoln Highway.” The Lancaster Daily Intelligencer, 5 July 1919, p. 13.

“Government Motor Truck Train Now Winding Its Way Across Nevada.” Reno Evening Gazette, 31 August 1919, p. 8.

Houlihan, Jim. “Official Greeting of Oakland Extended on Nevada Desert.” Oakland Tribune, 31 August 1919, p.1.

“U.S. Army Convoy Shows Tremendous Possibilities of Motor Trucks.” Los Angeles Sunday Times, 14 September 1919, p. 1.

“U.S. Army Truck Convoy Teaches Many Lessons; Automobile Transportation Factor in Progress.” The Salt Lake Tribune, 17 August 1919, p. 1.

“U.S. Convoy Half Way On Coast to Coast Trip.” The Washington Times, 2 August 1919, p. 9.

1937 Packard

Packard’s production numbers soared in 1937, and with a grille like this, it’s easy to see why. The Packard was offered in four models in ’37, the Twelve, the Super Eight, the 120 and the new Packard Six.

1937 Packard models

The Twelve was powered by a 473.3 cubic inch V-block engine. Both the Super Eight and the 120 had straight-eights, with 320 and 282 cubic inches, respectively, and the new Six featured a 237 cubic inch inline-six.

The Six was the bargain of the bunch with prices starting at just $795. Prices started at $945 for the 120 and $2,335 for the Super Eight. The Twelve was the luxury model with prices beginning at $3,420 (that’s around $60,000 in today’s dollars)!

Packard’s famous slogan


Kimes, Beverly Rae and Henry Austin Clark, Jr. Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942. Krause Publications, 1985.

“Packard Announces Four Complete Lines of Cars for 1937.” The Detroit Free Press, 6 September 1936, p. 8.

Packard. Advertisement. Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph, 18 September 1936, p. 33.

Packard. Advertisement. The Enquirer [Cincinnati], 15 November 1936, p. 12.

Packard Hood Ornaments

These Packard hood ornaments are among the most beautiful ever produced, but don’t call them “swans,” at least not around any Packard aficionados.  This Packard mascot was originally called a pelican and was based on the Packard family crest.  There seems to be considerable disagreement on the specifics, but somewhere along the line Packard began referring to the design as a “cormorant.”  No matter what you call it, there is no denying that it is one gorgeous bird.

Other Packard-related posts:

Packard Hood Ornaments by Year – 1940s

Packard Hood Ornaments by Year – 1950s

1934 Packard

1937 Packard